March 10, 2009
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The 2009 Yale Men's Golf season appears to be shaping up to be one of its best. The Bulldogs return seven players, including senior captain Colby Moore, and add two freshmen and a sophomore transfer to the mix. Not only that, but the Bulldogs had one of their best falls in recent memory after a tough loss in last year's Ivy League Championship.
This year's team is made up of three seniors, two juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen. Moore leads the Bulldogs and is joined by seniors Taylor Hakes and Thomas Ginakakis, juniors Ben Wescoe and Seve Gonzales, sophomores Michael Fader, Brandon Marick, and Thomas McCarthy and freshmen Jeffrey Hatten and Zachary Plutzik.
"I know that this team is the best team I have been on in the four years here at Yale, and we are ready to win an Ivy Championship," said Moore. "We learned a lot about ourselves from our near win at Ivies last year, and it made us work hard last fall and during the off-season to ensure a win this year."
This past fall, the team won one tournament, placed second in another, and played in two tournaments with some of the top teams in the country. Wescoe won his first collegiate tournament and Moore and McCarthy each picked up top-five finishes. The Bulldogs opened the season at the Gopher Invitational in Wayzata, Minn. The tournament featured eight teams that participated in the 2008 NCAA Regionals, and two of those teams went on to the championships. The Bulldogs put up a strong showing on a tough course against a tough field, finishing 12th as a team. McCarthy was the story of the tournament for Yale, however, coming in 11th individually.
The Bulldogs hosted the Macdonald Cup next and again played host to a tough field of competition. The Bulldogs took second behind Oklahoma, a team that is perennially in the top-50. Yale also saw two of its players, McCarthy and Moore, break par in the last round, shooting 68 (-2). Overall, Moore took third and McCarthy took fifth.
After the Macdonald Cup, the Bulldogs headed to the ECAC Championship, where they held off a charging Columbia team on the final day to win the tournament by one stroke. Columbia edged out Yale at Ivies in 2008 and the Bulldogs wanted revenge. Not only did the Bulldogs win as a team, but Wescoe took home the individual trophy, surpassing teammate McCarthy on the last day. McCarthy would go on to finish in fourth place.
The Bulldogs' final fall tournament took them out to the west coast and to the home state of three team members. Hakes, Gonzales and Wescoe all got to play in front of the home crowd against some tough competition. The tournament featured eight top-100 teams and some of the top individual golfers in the country. The Bulldogs held their own, finishing in 13th place and knocking off one of those top-100 teams, Idaho. Wescoe was the Bulldogs' highest finisher with a tournament of +1 which would have put him in the top three of almost any other tournament Yale plays. As it stood, he finished in 46th. To put it in perspective, the winner, Dustin Garza of Wichita State, shot -16 with a round of 61 (-11).
"Coming out of the fall, we noticed we didn't play as well in the bigger events," said Moore. "We were making fewer birdies than the big programs were. So, one of our challenges for this spring was upping our birdie quota."
With the end of the Sycuan Collegiate, the Bulldogs moved into off-season training mode. With the recent addition of the Dave Paterson Golf Technology Center last May, the Bulldogs were treated to a new era in Yale golf training.
"The Dave Paterson Center has been a great tool to be able to stay in rhythm while the weather is poor and the course is closed," said Moore. "It has been great to work on our swings in the simulator and keep our touch with the putting green. We have also really tried to work on our fitness this off-season. We were in the gym three times a week and recently we have implemented a new stretching routine that is already producing good results."
With four months of off-season under their belts, the Bulldogs are poised to build on their numerous fall successes and make a run at the Ivy League title. The Bulldogs will be tested four times before they reach Ivies, however. They will open the spring in Georgia at the Geico Intercollegiate hosted by Ohio Wesleyan. The tournament will take place from Mar. 13-14 and will be held at the Hunter Golf Club. Once the Bulldogs return from spring break, they will host their own one-day tournament at the Yale Golf Course on Apr. 4. From there the Bulldogs head to Princeton, N.J., to play in the Princeton Invitational. The tournament will be held at the Springdale Golf Club and will take place from Apr. 11-12. The Bulldogs will end the regular season at a new tournament called the Caves Valley Spring Intercollegiate. The tournament is being hosted by Yale at the Caves Valley Golf club in Owings Mills, Md.
"The one tournament that stands out is the new tournament that we are hosting at Caves Valley in Maryland," said Moore. "It is the week before Ivies and many of the conference teams will be at the event. It will give a good indication as to who is playing well going into the Ivy Championship. Also, Caves Valley is a great golf course that will really test our games before Ivies."
That tournament will take place from Apr. 18-19. From there the Bulldogs will head to the Ivy League Championship, a three day tournament taking place from Apr. 24-26 hosted at the Atlantic City Country Club. Last year at Ivies, the Bulldogs came in a heartbreaking second place. The Bulldogs lead the tournament after 36 holes with Moore in third and Joseph Hernandez '08 in fourth. But they struggled on the final day and relinquished their lead to Columbia. Hernandez finished the tournament in fourth and Moore dropped to sixth. McCarthy and Wescoe finished in ninth and 11th, respectively.
"We have one goal this season, and that is to win Ivies," said Moore. "Obviously, we want to win as many other tournaments as well because that will instill confidence in the team and get them in the frame of mind to win, but our goal is to win Ivies in order to get to the NCAA Regional."
Winning Ivies seems to be well within the reach of this year's team. The Bulldogs defeated both Harvard and Dartmouth at the Macdonald cup as well as Brown and last year's Ivy League champions Columbia at the ECAC Championship. According to Moore, Yale is going to be the team to beat this spring.
"Looking solely at the national rankings, we are the top ranked team in the Ivies," said Moore. "Columbia has been good the last few years and is the defending Ivy Champion. Penn is always strong and I foresee them to be in the running as well for the Championship. But without a doubt in my mind, Yale is the strongest team in the conference."
The Bulldogs will get their first chance to prove that on Mar. 13 when they open at the Geico Invitational in Savannah, Ga.
Report filed by Charles Moore '10, Yale Sports Publicity